Fixing the matter for further hearing on November 6, it said the amicus curiae would be at liberty to seek assistance from state governments and the registrar generals of all the 24 high courts in preparing the fresh status reports.
The Supreme Court directed all 24 high courts, and 36 states and UTs on Thursday to file fresh status reports giving details of the progress made in filling up of vacancies of judicial officers in trial courts and construction of facilities like courtrooms and dwelling units for judges since August 1. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on October 22 last year had, on its own, taken note of over 5,000 vacant posts of judicial officers in lower courts and lack of infrastructure for judges, litigants and advocates in such court complexes. The top court has been passing a slew of directions to the states, Union Territories (UTs) and the high courts and fixing deadlines for appointment of judicial officers, their support staff, construction of courtrooms and dwelling units for judges.
The bench had passed its last order on these aspects to the states, UTs and the high courts on August 1 this year and it has now sought details of the progress made by them since then. The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer, asked senior advocates Shyam Divan, K V Vishwanathan, Vijay Hansaria and lawyer Gaurav Agrawal, who have been appointed amicus curiae to assist it in the mammoth task of monitoring the developments, to apprise the court of the “progress made by the states in filling up of judicial vacancies and infrastructure fronts as on today”.
Fixing the matter for further hearing on November 6, it said the amicus curiae would be at liberty to seek assistance from state governments and the registrar generals of all the 24 high courts in preparing the fresh status reports. Divan has been assisting the court in dealing with the filling up of vacancies and infrastructure development in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and the northeastern states.
While Vishwanathan has assisted the top court in dealing with such issues in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala, Hansaria was rendering assistance with regard to Patna, Madhya Pradesh, Madras, Odisha, and Punjab and Haryana. Agrawal has been assisting the top court in dealing with the issue of vacancies in Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
The apex court conducted an extensive three-day hearing in the matter from July 30 to August 1 before passing a slew of directions to several states, Union Territories and high courts in this regard. The law secretaries of 29 states and seven UTs and the registrar generals of 24 high courts had appeared in person before the Supreme Court. It had also asked the state governments and the registrar generals to inform the secretary general of the apex court the position regarding filling up of the vacancies in the judicial services in each state. It had termed the extent of vacancies in lower judiciary as “wholly unacceptable” and had sought information from all the 24 high courts on it. The apex court had said there were 22,036 posts of higher and lower judicial officers in lower courts in the country and as on October 22, 2018, 5,133 posts are vacant.